Election night Surprises in Tulare and Kings Counties

Xavier and Susy Avila congratulate Valadao on his victory

It was election party night in Visalia, Hanford and Tulare with the biggest shindig at St. Johns Hall outside Hanford. It was a who’s who in politics with Congress Member Devin Nunes, Congress Member David Valadao, State Senator Andy Vidak, and candidate for Assembly District 32 Justin Mendes hosting the party.

Various Hanford City Council members, Kings County Supervisors, and Tulare County Schools Superintendent Jim Vidak were among the 300 attendees celebrating Republican victories and mourning a few losses. There was enough pizza, tacos and ice cream to last late into the night as the group anxiously waited for election results to trickle in.

By 10:30pm, while waiting for more solid results, Nunes addressed the crowd, praising the Republican Party for holding a record number of United States Senate seats. He also reminded an applauding crowd that even though the Republicans lost the House, Congress Member Nancy Pelosi didn’t have the votes from her own party to regain the speakership.

Pelosi was Speaker of the House up until the Republicans took control in 2010, when she handed the gavel over to Congress Member John Boehner. Congress Member Paul Ryan is the current Speaker.

Though Nunes coasted to victory after a contentious campaign and will continue on the House Intelligence Committee, he will lose the Chair to Democratic Congress Member Adam Schiff, also from California.

Nunes speaking to an enthusiastic crowd at St. Johns Hall in Hanford

After giving his pep talk, Nunes mingled in the crowd, talked with his constituents, and shook a lot of hands. Until recently Nunes had kept a low profile because of what he says were attacks from the left. A supporter who was close to the Congress Member said Nunes ran to represent his district and didn’t sign up for his family getting attacked or expect challenger Andrew Janz to trespass on his family’s property.

Valadao and Nunes won by predictably large margins, but incumbent Andy Vidak, State Senator for District 14 suffered a surprising loss to Sanger City Council Member Melissa Hurtado, 48% to 52%.

While Hanford City Council member Justin Mendes received a rousing 61% percent of the vote in Kings County for Assembly District 32, he ultimately lost to incumbent Rudy Salas 52.5% to 47.5% with Salas’ majority of votes coming from Kern County.

Valadao declared victory by 11:30pm and issued a statement ending with “The Central Valley has always been and will always be my home and I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to continue serving the place I love.”

Visalia City Council District 3

Visalia City Council candidate Merritt Wiseman had her candidate’s party at Amigos Restaurant and Cantina. Candidate Brian Poochigian had his party at the Wyndham Hotel joined by Candidate for Tulare County Superintendent Tim Hire with an appearance by Assembly Member District 26 Devon Mathis. Candidate Steve Woods said the day before, “I’ll be attending the watch parties of a variety of others, in support of great candidates.”

Bob Link stopped by Wisemans party

Wiseman was discouraged by the preliminary results, but Tulare County Supervisor Amy Shuklian put on a positive face and said the results only represented one third of the absentee votes.

Though everyone ran a basically clean campaign, Wiseman expressed disappointment that so many of her signs had been vandalized towards the end of the race.

Poochigian’s preliminary lead held throughout the night and by Wednesday morning he had won 51.48%, to Wiseman’s 31.36%, and Woods 16.9%.

Poochigan said that he knocked on almost every registered voter’s door in his district and did not believe he won because of name recognition. He said part of his victory was because he has lived in the district most of his life.

Poochigian wanted to dispel a rumor that he had only recently moved to the district so he could run for city council.  He and his wife bought their first home in East Visalia where it is more affordable and when they could, bought a home where he grew up and attended local schools.

Tulare County Superintendent

While Candidate for Tulare County Superintendent Tim Hire watched his razor edge lead come in around 8:20 at Poochigian’s party, Candidate Craig Wheaton, Deputy Assistant for Tulare County Superintendent,  was having his get together at the Planning Mill in downtown Visalia.

Mathis congratulating Poochigian his race for city council. Mathis easily won his seat by 23 points

About 50 people were in attendance shortly after eight o’clock waiting for results as the mood in the room was upbeat, but guarded. A live feed, side-by-side, of local ABC and Fox affiliates was presented while groups of families and supporters were glued to their smart phones.

“It’s a tight race,” Wheaton said after the first election night results were announced online.

Wheaton’s campaign manager, Karen Tellalian, said, “The first report came out and Craig is down 800. But,” she said, “we’ll see when the next one comes out–we’ll know more.”

The first report indicated that Wheaton trailed his opponent, Hire, currently Superintendent of Exeter Unified School District, by 783 votes. The first results were all mail-in, and reflected just shy of 19% of that total.

Hire ended up retaining his lead throughout the night and won the race by 50.84% to 48.5%. An insider opined that Hire’s election edge was due to his endorsements and support by the Tulare County Republican establishment.

Stay tuned for reports from Tulare City Council races and Measure A and Measure H later this afternoon.


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